In 1844, a generation after the Society of the Sacred Heart was founded, Pauline Perdrau, a young novice, took it upon herself to produce a fresco of the Virgin Mary on a wall in a recreational area of the Trinita dei Monti, a Sacred Heart school in Rome. Sister Perdrau chose to paint Mary as a young woman, sitting in the temple, clothed in a rose -colored dress. The fresco includes a lily at Mary's side representing her purity; a distaff and spindle, her love of work; a book, her dedication to study. Representations of Mater Admirabilis (Mother Most Admirable) can be found in all Sacred Heart schools.
The feast day celebrating our Blessed Mother is especially dear to Sacred Heart children. Mater Admirabilis is the name given to the statue of Our Lady which you will find in a place of honor in every Sacred Heart school. “Mater Admirabilis” is Latin, meaning “Mother Most Admirable.”
This feast day is celebrated on October 20.
The Many Faces of Mater (video by Wallis Gunn Strobach, City House, Class of 1962)
Reflection for the Feast of Mater (Shirley Miller, RSCJ, 2011)
Reflection for the Feast of Mater (Muriel Cameron, RSCJ, 2012)
Who is Mater? by Joanne Fitzpatrick, RSCJ
Reflection by Shirlely Miller, RSCJ
Homily on Mater by Maura Keleher, RSCJ
Reflection on Mater from 91st Street -- Lou Cicalese
A Story of How Mater Admirabilis came to be...
In 1828, Pope Leo XII invited the Society of the Sacred Heart to found a community and school at the Trinità dei Monti, a monastery at the top of the Spanish Steps in Rome. For 300 years, the monastery had housed a community of Minims, an order founded by St. Francis of Paola in the 15th century. The Order of Minims had abandoned the property during the French Revolution, and by 1828 the buildings were in need of repair. A contingent of RSCJ went to Rome to put the property in order under an agreement with the French government, which owned the property and specified that only French nuns would occupy the site.
Sixteen years after Religious of the Sacred Heart came to live at the Trinità, a young French girl, Pauline Perdrau, was admitted as a postulant to the Society. A talented artist, she asked permission of the superior of the house, Mother Josephine de Coriolis, to paint a portrait of Our Lady on a wall of a corridor that led to the sisters’ cloister. However, Mother Coriolis was hesitant, because she knew the artist was unfamiliar with fresco painting techniques.
Pauline Perdrau persisted, praying to Mary for strength. She prevailed, and for months after receiving permission to begin, she devoted several hours a day to preparing the surface of the wall and painting her image of Mary.
When the painting was complete, the colors were thought to be too vivid. The fresco was covered with a protective cloth to give the paint time to dry. Days later, when the cloth was removed, the colors had softened to the shades of pink and blue and ivory that are so well known to visitors to Mater’s shrine today. To Pauline Perdrau, who later became a Religious of the Sacred Heart, the change was nothing less than a miracle.
Among the many stories associated with Pauline Perdrau’s painting of Our Lady is this one: In the fall of 1846, Pope Pius IX paid a visit to Trinità dei Monti and was overwhelmed by the beauty of the fresco of Mary. “Mater Admirabilis!” exclaimed the pope, giving the painting of Mary the title it bears today. -- From rscj.org
Prayer to Mater Admirabilis (prayer for strength and love)
O divine Mother of Jesus, we come to you as to the spring of living, thirst-quenching waters, the flame that warms us, the dawn that dispels all shadows, the Mother ever attentive to the confusion of her children.
O Wonderful Mother, the road of our life is hard at times. It is not easy always to walk steadily in the path of duty. It is not easy to love our neighbor, our brother, as Jesus wants us to love him. It is not easy to keep our soul always even among the inequalities of life. It is not easy to love creatures a yet keep oneself for God alone. It is not easy to be little and humble when pride is staking its claim. It is not easy to go to the God of Light along roads that are dark with shadows. There are days everything is a burden. But You, O Admirable Mother. You make everything easy. And yet you do not take the sacrifice away from our path, any more than God took it away from yours; but you make the effort easier by making love grow. It was love, ever victorious in you, that make you say on the very threshold of your destiny: "Be it done to Me according to thy word." And you never took back that word of consent to the love that was leading you. You never resisted suffering, but offered to its action a soul humble and gentle, utterly given to God.
O Mary, may your example be my strength. Make everything easy in my life, not by taking trouble away, but by giving me love, a love always greater than the trouble.
O Mother most gentle, make my heart very strong; and if you see that my love is getting exhausted too soon. I implore you to give your child some of your love and teach her again the lesson of true love.
Prayer to Mater Admirabilis (prayer for peace and humility)
Mater Admirabilis, to your friends you open the way of Interior Progress. In contemplating you, O Admirable Mother, the soul thrills with a holy desire to penetrate into that world of love and grace in which your would as made its dwelling. Who better than you can reveal to us this interior life? Who better than you can open us to the life of Jesus and trace in us His divine characteristics? O Mother, let us look at you; in the end a child resembles its mother when its gaze never leaves her face.
You are the silent Virgin!
You are the utterly humble Virgin!
You are the faithful Virgin!
O silent Virgin, you teach us that silence creates in us the gravity that befits our waiting on God; and are we not always waiting thus? Silence, too, must protect God's dwelling-place; such silence is both an expression of love and a protection for love. O Mother, keep calm and secluded the dwelling of our soul into which Jesus descends every day.
O utterly humble Virgin, you teach us, too, that there can be no progress without a loyal and generous tendency to humility. God's gifts are only safe in souls who attribute nothing to themselves and are conscious of their poverty. Teach us that unpretentious littleness that knows how to be docile, loves to serve and then slips willingly away. The humility of your heart rose up to God like a melody; it delighted His heart; may ours bring Him down to us.
O faithful Virgin, you are the one who always responded to God's expectations, who never set the shadow of a hesitation between the call of grace and its realization. Give us that promptitude in love, that soaring eagerness of faith. May sacrifice never halt us; but in the joy which increases our gift a hundredfold, may we answer every grace that solicits us: "Behold the handmaid of the Lord!"
Mother Most Admirable, pray for us!